Motherhood is … by Lisa Evans

Lisa Evans, Motherhood is..., 2014
Lisa Evans, Motherhood is…, 2014

“From tomorrow your job as a mother is done!” my son said the day before he left home; one week after the initial lockdown was announced and two weeks before the start of it. For a year or two leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic I had felt sad and fearful. I questioned my identity as a woman and role as a mother. His departure was premature when lockdown was announced. This was because I needed to shield for health reasons. It was an emotional time and it felt relevant to resurrect my project Motherhood is… in order to reach out to other mothers and share experiences of mothering at this difficult time.

My arts practice has always been participatory. It has involved speaking to individuals about their life experiences, either face to face or during workshops. When I first created Motherhood is… in 2013, I spoke with friends and other mothers about their experiences of becoming a mother. I chose phrases and words from these conversations then printed them onto paper baby clothes. The process of gathering text, making the garments, and organising installations seemed straightforward. Because of the Covid-19 restrictions, I’ve had to learn and adopt social media strategies for reaching participants, and the form of work has had to change.

Lisa Evans, Motherhood is…, 2014 Jellyfish Gallery (part of ‘The Waking Hours’ exhibition)

In June, I set up a private Facebook group and asked mothers to share their experiences of mothering throughout lockdown and the pandemic by writing a sentence using the phrase “Motherhood is…”;. My aim was to collect the same number of sentences to the number of days the UK was in the first national lockdown (92 days). My projects usually stem from personal experience of the issue I’m focusing on, so I find that sharing my experience helps when building rapport. I wrote a post about my son leaving home and contributed a sentence.

motherhood is …

motherhood is meaningful

motherhood is messy

motherhood is empowering

motherhood is a curse

motherhood is surprising

motherhood is exhausting

motherhood is fulfilling

motherhood is lonely

motherhood is sugar and salt

motherhood is not pink

motherhood is the reason you’re here

motherhood is challenging and inconvenient

motherhood is “The Giving Tree” and you’re the stump

motherhood is the most beautiful pain you’ll ever know

motherhood is never calling your body your own again

motherhood is everything you don’t need on a bad day

motherhood is the best thing you’ll ever do

motherhood is the hardest thing you’ll ever do

motherhood is enlightening

motherhood is torture

motherhood is a gift

motherhood is suffocating

motherhood is joyful

motherhood is vinegar

motherhood is togetherness

motherhood is a total mindf**k

motherhood is like endless feats of heroism in the face of constantly eroding self-esteem

motherhood is about erasing bits of yourself as you colour them in

motherhood is like forcing yourself to be the ocean when you’re a well that’s run dry

motherhood is about learning how to mother when you were never mothered yourself

motherhood is doing the best you can with what you’ve got

motherhood is like the ever-changing seasons

motherhood is claustrophobic and terrifying

motherhood is about loss

motherhood is like a light in the darkness

motherhood is like open heart surgery

motherhood is like living your best life

motherhood is all the colours

motherhood is not something that is easy to describe

motherhood is this for me and that for you

Lisa Evans, Motherhood is…. 2020 Poem

Creating a socially-engaged project online has had its limitations though. I’ve found that the lack of face to face communication has affected the level of participation and how members of the group interact. However, it has also been an effective tool for reaching many mothers from across the UK and abroad. I’ve reached a range of local and regional specific groups, interest or issue-based groups and arts specific groups, such as Maternal Art, Mothers Who Make and Spilt Milk Gallery. Since coming across these groups and organisations I’ve been massively inspired by the works of other mother artists; some of which have contributed a sentence or supported my creative process. In August, I submitted a poem for the Spilt Milk Home-works artist’s Zine, where I used 40 sentences to represent the average number of weeks in pregnancy.

I’ve reached my goal of collecting enough sentences and am working on making the Motherhood is …. book, due to be published in time for Mother’s Day. In many ways, the restrictions put on me by the pandemic has given me the opportunity to strengthen my skills as an artist and discover my identity as a mother now.

Motherhood is …Poetry Participants:

Rebecca Kirk, Susie Hatch, Poppy Burton-Morgan, Jo Snow, Jolly Holiday, Sarah Evans, Helen Sargeant, Shell John, Andrea Leonard Drummond, Amanda MacWilliams Gambier, Amp Lp, Alison Powell, Heather-May Howse, Birikiti Pegram, Kat-Holmes Adams, Lauren Mclaughlin, Sarah Peart, Louise Manly, Stella Buckland Kesavaram, Julia Evans, Sarah MWM Canterbury and Helen Fowler.

To find out more about Motherhood is … please visit the facebook group and to discover more about Lisa Evan’s arts practice see her artists website.